Thought to have been created in 14th-century Germany, the first Stollen was characterised by the absence of milk and butter, ensuring its existence as a flavour-free (and fun-free) Christmas bread.
With butter banned as part of December’s Advent fast, the Catholic Church decreed that the ‘Christstollen’ be made with little more than flour, yeast, water and oil.
It was Saxony, whose citizens only had access to unsavoury rape oil, that petitioned the Pope to allow its bakers to use butter. The church relented, for a small, cheeky fee toward the building of the Dresden cathedral.
The Saxons went to work on baking a more cake-like version with eggs, sugar, dried fruit, citrus peel and almonds. The loaf was liberally brushed with melted butter and dusted in icing sugar. This became the famous Dresden Stollen, and other German variations also include a decadent marzipan version.
This German speciality began life as a tasteless bread before evolving into a rich, fruit-laden Christmas treat.